CLINTON — The Clinton Muddy River Rugby Club completed its fall season a perfect 7-0.

Muddy River closed out its fall slate with a 31-19 win over the West Side Harlequins of Milwaukee to secure first place in the Midwest Rugby Union’s Western Conference followed by a 22-5 Midwest playoff win over Lincoln Park of Chicago.

Muddy River’s win over the Harlequins also secured the Clinton squad the top seed in the Midwest.

The Harlequins scored first, going up 3-0 on a penalty kick just three minutes into the action.

Muddy River scored the next 12 points. Ray Hopkins scored a try 15 minutes in. Jacob Myers added a try off a goal-line assist by Larry Petersen, who had slithered some 20 meters through the defense. Stephen Ugarph added the conversion to make it 12-3 with under a minute remaining in the first half.

The Harlequins immediately closed the gap with another penalty kick to end the half with Muddy River up 12-6.

The first score of the second half came from Muddy River’s Don LeRoux, as he touched down the ball just left of the goal post from a driving maul that started 18 meters out. Stephen Ugarph added the conversion to make it 19-6.

“The maul has been a potent weapon for us all season,” Muddy River coach Dean Hahn said. “All of our opponents have had a difficult time stopping the Muddy River maul.”

The Harlequins shaved the margin to 19-13 with a try and conversion. With 18 minutes left Hopkins broke free for a 60-meter try, making it 24-13.

But, the Harlequins hit two more penalty kicks to close within 24-19 in the final minutes.

Muddy River responded with a driving maul that was capped by Dave Ugarph touching down the ball as time expired. Stephen Ugarph tacked on the conversion.

“It was a sloppy win, although we accomplished what was necessary to secure home-field advantage throughout the Midwest playoffs,” Hahn said. “We need to return to the formula that gave us success for most of the season — attack the seam, support, ruck and maul as one unit.”

Petersen was named Man of the Match. Hahn also credited Hopkins and Dave Ugarph for exceptional play.

The Clinton squad bested Lincoln Park on a very windy day, mauling in four tries en route to the win.

With the win Muddy River claimed home-field advantage for the Midwest Rugby Union’s Western Conference final and a spot in the Midwest Final Four, of which three teams will move on to the USA Rugby Sweet 16.

Muddy River’s backs and forwards mauled together to devastating effects as Myers, Jeremy Beswick and Dan Peters all touched down.

Beswick scored the first try of the day 17 minutes into the match. The score was the product of multiple phases of mauling and some hard-fought pick and goes at the goal line.

Lincoln Park pulled even with a try of its own.

For the next 20 minutes back and forth drives fell just short of goal. In the final seconds of the first half Muddy River drove a textbook perfect maul down the field with Myers touching down for the score, putting Clinton ahead 10-5 at the half.

Just minutes into the second half Muddy River drove another perfect maul down the field with Peters touching down, making it 15-5.

With less than 8 minutes remaining a Muddy River maul was stopped by a Lincoln Park infraction, which sent its scrum half off for the day with a red card.

Muddy River regrouped an capitalized with Myers finding goal again by punching through a gap in the goal line defense after finding himself at the end of a driving maul with ball in hand and just inches from goal. Stephen Ugarph added the conversion.

“Today we did a fine job of not committing costly penalties and by creating turnovers when we needed them,” Hahn said. “It was a hard-fought victory — a true showing of heart and determination. I am very proud of the effort.”

Myers was named Man of the Match. Hahn also credited Aaron Alviar, John Clausen and Marlon Tillman for exceptional play.

Muddy River will face the Chicago Blaze April 7 in the Western Conference final.

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